Q: Hi, Peter. I love to travel and am a retired 30-year educator. I'm pursuing that next step in life. I just completed a Certified Nursing Assistant Course and will be licensed by the end of August. I want to be an elder travel companion, with the end goal being to travel continent-to-continent and/or cruise ship-to-cruise ship with someone needing assistance while traveling. Any ideas of where to start pursuing this goal?
–Linda, Pahoa, Hawaii
A: To become an elder travel companion, you can either offer your services to an established company or hang out your own shingle. One word of caution, though: Don't get the idea that doing this work would give you an easy way to see the world for free. Remember, you will be working 24/7, and your primary responsibility will be helping the person you're accompanying—not sightseeing and enjoying yourself.
That said, there are number of different organizations and companies that provide escorts who can accompany older people on trips in the United States and abroad. These companions also assist disabled people, children, hearing or visually-impaired people, and those who are simply anxious fliers.
The aim of these organizations is to help semi-independent folks who still have a need or desire to travel. Some operations are full-fledged companies employing large staffs; others are single individuals who simply want to help. To find a company that offers travel-companion services, start with the Internet. Google or Craig's List can provide many leads. Senior centers and newspaper ads may also be a source.
Once you find a company, look at its background. Find out how many times it has provided the companion service to clients and how many years it has been in business. Ask for testimonials and references from clients. Also, make sure the company has general liability insurance.
Here’s one reference to get you started: Atlanta-based Flying Companions, which has been around for two years, offers services that range from simply researching airfares and making travel arrangements to accompanying travelers on full-fledged jaunts around the world. The company has one full-time staffer and several contract employees. Its prices vary widely, depending on the length of the trip and the level of care required.